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"I'm not going to see this Region destroyed," Regional Chair Gary Carr tells CN

An angry Halton Regional Chairman Gary Carr blasted CN officials Wednesday, telling them the Region would fight with all its legal might to make sure the proposed intermodal terminal in Milton wouldn’t be built.

“Rest assured, we’re going to do everything we can… I’m not going to see this Region destroyed…,” Carr told CN officials, following a delegation and question-and-answer period about the massive plan with CN’s Marie-Therese Houde, director of business development and Paul Deegan, vice-president of public and government affairs.

“It’s not right. It’s not fair and we’re going to fight you on this,” Carr vowed, insisting all planners, developers and road people had acted in “good faith” when they developed plans for the Region in 2008.

As a federal MP, before becoming Regional Chair in 2006, Carr helped bring forth a petition with 6,000 names opposing the terminal. In 2008, the Region went ahead with its Official Plan, mapping out a strategy for its roads and communities — after CN insisted it didn’t intend to go ahead with its terminal.

“Some of your colleagues stood right at this same podium and told us that you were not going to proceed with this terminal,” Carr said. “But you come forward today and tell us that you’re going to work with us. How do you justify coming late to the game? We’re supposed to change all of our plans because CN decided to change its plans?”

If built, Carr said the facility would not only disrupt the lives of residents, but also increase their property taxes.

Under the Region's Master plan and Milton's plans, the area near the proposed facility is earmarked for employment lands for other business and industry, but the fear now is that none will locate next to a huge terminal so future development charges and tax revenue will be lost the local municipalities. And, as CN is a federally-regulated company, it isn't required to pay development charges which otherwise may be in the millions of dollars.

The extra truck traffic has the potential to cause road chaos on Town and Regional roads, affect daily living, increase noise in quiet subdivisions, and adversely influence people and businesses from moving to the region, Carr said.

The proposed 400-acre intermodal terminal would be located on lands bordered by Tremaine Road to the west, Britannia Road to the north and Lower Base Line to the south. It would operate 24/7 and see 800 trucks inbound and 800 outbound, per day, when at full capacity.

Regional officials previously indicated 50,000 residents and 20,000 homes are planned for the area immediately north of the proposed CN intermodal hub.

Carr confronted CN officials, demanding to know why the company insisted in 2008 it wouldn’t be going ahead with the terminal only to change its mind, thereby seriously affecting the Region’s, as well as Milton’s ,well-planned development for homes, businesses and roads in the area.

Under the CN plan, approximately 800 trucks daily would be going in and out of the terminal with 80 per cent of them leaving the complex on Britannia Road and heading east to James Snow Parkway and onto Hwy. 401. CN-owned and operated trucks would use Hwy. 407.

CN officials expect the terminal to be up and running by 2018, at the latest, if there are no snags with an environmental assessment or traffic study being conducted by an independent consultant. However, Britannia Road is currently a two-lane, rural road. Although construction is underway to turn it into a four and six-lane road, that won’t be completed until 2020.

Carr told CN officials that a master plan was put in place to build roads before residents arrive in the region. Developers accepted the plan and are currently selling homes based on the process.

“Construction is going on. How do you justify doing a road study after construction?” Carr asked. “You’re saying we have to throw all of our planning out the window?”

Houde told Council members that CN had no plans to build the Milton facility in 2008, but it never anticipated the unheard of growth – 68 per cent – between 2009 and 2014 that occurred in the industry. CN believed the Brampton terminal would handle its requirements, but it has reached its capacity.

“The Brampton facility is one of the largest in North America, in terms of volume,” Houde said. “This growth reflects the growth of the GTHA. We’re going to minimize truck traffic by bringing the trains closer to the market. That’s why, in 2008 it wasn’t part of our plans, but it became part of our plans in 2014.”

Carr shot back, saying unlike CN, the Region plans for growth and, in fact, is the regional municipality with the highest growth in Canada.

“But your plans change and now we have to change our plans and inconvenience our people,” Carr said. “When we do plans, everybody comes to the table, the developers, the Town, the traffic people, all come together to put plans together.

Carr insisted the extra truck traffic would make Hwy. 401 across the Region even more impossible to travel than it is now, when even one accident can cause thousands of vehicles to leave the highway and clog Regional and Town roads.

Deegan insisted the trucks clogging Hwy. 401 are already on the roads and the CN proposal will take trucks off the roads and put them on trains.

Carr shot back that the Region has one of the best job-creation records in the world because of the quality of life and its roads. The terminal, however, will clog the roads and inconvenience people.

“You’re going to affect our economic development because people aren’t going to want to live here and businesses aren’t going to want to come here,” Carr said. “You’re going to affect employment lands in Oakville and employment lands elsewhere on Tremaine.

“You come in, not at the end of the third period, but after the game has been played and say you want to change the score…You folks stood there and said you’re not going to do it and we made our best plans based on that. Now you’re asking the Titanic to turn around and make some changes because you’ve made some changes.”

Under Sustainable Halton, the Region’s widely-lauded plan for growth management, the land has been earmarked for strategic employment, with a mix of residential and commercial development surrounding it, as well as environmentally-protected lands.

CN officials insisted its investment of $250 million would generate 1,000 direct and in-direct jobs, including 130 at the terminal, which will load and unload containers 24/7. Houde, however, insisted night traffic would be kept to a minimum with the majority of the traffic in and out of the terminal coming between non-peaked hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The proposed terminal, paralleling CN’s main line between Britannia Road and Lower Base Line, is the only location for such a terminal within the GTHA, CN officials said. They also indicated they had no back-up plan should the terminal not be built.

Houde also insisted two of the four additional trains coming into the proposed terminal already are part of the 30 trains per day that travel through Halton.

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